There aren’t a lot of fat positive Ted Talks. It was nice to see something that isn’t focused on making yourself perfect before you live your life.
For those of you who may not follow Fat Positive bloggers on Twitter, a new hashtag erupted last week. Admittedly co-opted from the #racistmicroaggressions tag, both explore the small, more subtle ways our culture and individuals within it express hatred and animosity towards fat people. From institutionalized abuse in the medical system to insulting “praise” at the gym, plus size men and women of all stripes tweeted their own direct experiences to the tag. You may see a lot of familiar things in this extended call-out … and yes, there were a few trolls.
- I Have No Clue How To Classify My Body Type(xojane.com)
- Fat Jokes In Children’s Movies Are A Lot More Common Than You Think(wonderfultips.wordpress.com)
- Stop bullying girls with big curves!(80yearsoflove.wordpress.com)
Not very safe for work – lots of swear words. But great commentary.
Type â€œfatspoâ€ into the search bar on Tumblr and you will be greeted with a plus size plethora. Fat girls modeling beautiful fashion, from vintage dresses to the crop top. There are entries from young women proclaiming that they have finally accepted their bodies no matter the size. Other users are supportive, leaving comments lauding these girls for their good self-esteem. Does this mean we are normalizing fat? Or are communities for fat acceptance just growing?
â€œFatspo,â€ hybridizes the words â€œfatâ€ and â€œinspiration.â€ The Urban DictionaryÂ defines â€œfatspoâ€ as: â€œOften consists of pictures of fattening foods or overweight or obese people, along with inspirational quotes promoting fat and body positive attitudes. Oppositely employed by those who strive to lose weight as examples of what they don’t want to look like. Primarily used by women describing images of themselves or other women, whether admiringly or disparagingly.â€
This is loaded with all sorts of assumptions: that fat is unhealthy. That being overweight is automatically the result of a sedentary lifestyle. But science has some data that mainstream media remains blind to – that the formula for fatness just isn’t that simple or predictable. In 2008, Dr. Linda Bacon, a professor of nutrition at the City College of San Francisco, penned a book called Health at Every Size Â putting forth the idea that being overweight does not automatically mean you are unhealthy.
To break it down:
Let’s say you and one of your friends decide to eat the same meals and exercise the same way for a month. At the end of that month your results will be different from factors including your metabolism and your genetic blueprint. Itâ€™s actually impossible to continue to eat the same way your entire life and have the same body content. Metabolism slows with age, causing bodies to change. (Bacon, 2008) Eating pizza every night for dinner will affect you differently at age 40 than it did at 22.
â€œBut Marlee,â€ you might say. â€œMy BMI is a 27. Obviously Iâ€™m overweight.â€ Stop right there, sister and back up. Body Mass Index, or BMI, while still used by most doctors, has long since been demonstrated invalid as a measure of a person’s health. Things BMI takes into account: Height and weight. You convert your weight to kilograms and divide it by your height in centimeters. A BMI between 19 and 25 is considered normal, between 26 and 30 overweight and 30 is defined as obese. (Bacon 2008) BMI does not take into account muscle mass, body fat and metabolism. Case in point: My best friendâ€™s ex-boyfriend is an avid runner and exercise enthusiast but because of his muscle, his BMI score classifies him as obese.
One of the more popular body positivity blogs to spring from the fatspo movement is the tumblr Stop Hating Your Body. Â Started in October 2010 by student Annie Segarra, it began as a personal project. â€œDealing with body dysmorphia and terrible self-image, self-esteem, and then finding a wonderful sense of clarity, I wanted to share it with people online,â€ says Segarra. “In time it grew and became more of a platform where people are encouraged to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas about the topic.â€
The mission statement of the project seeks â€œto love ourselves, every last inch! To help others, to help build positive self-esteem!â€ Submissions include a picture of the submitting author, her story and a link that leads back to the SHYB website. For Segarra, the success of the website is apparent in seeing frequent contributors grow more comfortable with themselves over periods of months to years. â€œItâ€™s such a beautiful thing,â€ she says â€œIâ€™d love for the [websiteâ€™s] focus to shift from that love, to the idea that we are actually so much more than our bodies, there are so many more important aspects to life than what we look like.â€
Itâ€™s challenging to be positive about ourselves when we live in such a visual culture. But the key is within us: once we feel better about ourselves, then we can see others with respect.
Part of that process is understanding, fully, that we may not know what we think we know about our own bodies. So in the process of becoming who we want to be, we have to learn to accept what is rather than be what we are told to be. Pretty fatspiring, right?